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China EVs pose export threat as costs, prices tumble

Nio, which competes against the likes of BMW with premium electric cars in China, said this week it would launch a new, more affordable EV brand with its first target market Europe, and is also evaluating the U.S. market.

“If the overall user experience we can provide to European users is better somehow, we can establish our competitiveness,” Qin Lihong, Nio’s president said. “We can get our fair share.”

Zeekr, a premium EV brand held by China’s Geely, said it would be in most European markets by 2026.

Other established automakers are taking advantage of China’s more competitive supply chain by exporting from China. BMW, for example, exports the iX3 from China to Southeast Asia and Europe.

Renault’s Dacia ships the Spring EV, an entry-level hatchback like the BYD Seagull, to Europe and ranked as the second-largest EV exporter from China last year after Tesla.

Tesla shipped more than 271,000 Model Y and Model 3 sedans from its Shanghai factory last year to Europe and other markets, roughly a fifth of its sales.

But the biggest rise in exports is coming from Chinese automakers. China’s car exports grew four-fold between 2020 and 2022 to top two million vehicles. Exports of all vehicle types are on track to top three million vehicles this year if the first-quarter pace is sustained.

BYD’s exports were up four-fold just last year, nearing 56,000 vehicles, led by the Yuan Plus EV, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers shows.

BYD has not announced export plans for the Seagull, which is priced below what is now the best selling EV in China, the BYD Dolphin, which is priced from 116,800 yuan ($17,000) in China. BYD will start delivering the Dolphin in Europe from the fourth quarter.

“Maybe we see it in Rome, Warsaw or Lisbon sooner than later,” Morgan Stanley’s Jonas, said of the hatchback. “No wonder Tesla keeps cutting price.”

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